Gambler banking on late friend’s pledge to walk beloved dog in hereafter |

Gambler banking on late friend’s pledge to walk beloved dog in hereafter

John L. Smith

Time has stopped for gambler Sam Angel, the man whom I years ago nicknamed the “John Cameron Swayze of the Street” because of his sideline profession selling watches and jewelry to denizens of poker rooms.

Sammy was 86 when he died recently after a lengthy illness, which is ironic considering the fact that he was 86’d from most of the casinos and bars in town because of his propensity for loud conversation and prolific beer and whiskey drinking.

In addition to being an all-world character, Sammy won two bracelets in competition at the World Series of Poker. He’ll surely be missed at $20 prizefights, The Orleans sports book and crowded poker rooms.

Meanwhile, gambler Lem Banker’s dog Checkers recently died. (I realize this transition might seem a bit insensitive, but read on.)

You may remember Checkers as the star of Lem’s handicapping appearances on KLAS-TV, Channel 8. In the spots, Lem would give his picks and tell a joke. The picks often were winners, but the jokes mostly were groaners. Lem is a legendary gambler and an astute man with the numbers after 60 years in the business. But, frankly, when I watched his TV spot, I began to think his pets wrote his material.

Now Lem has a problem. Not only has his dog died, but his friend Sam Angel has passed, too.

I hear that Lem made a deal with Sam shortly before he died. Lem would agree to place bets on Sam’s behalf in the here and now as long as Sam promised to walk Checkers in the hereafter.

As Lem plans to take his bankroll with him when he goes, he promises to settle up with Sam in the next life.

It seems like a perfectly reasonable arrangement, don’t you think?

CONSPIRACY GOVERNOR: We knew Gov. Jim Gibbons’ popularity was anemic – just 29 percent according to one recent poll – but it doesn’t get much lower than “worst person in the world” status. That’s how MSNBC host Keith Olbermann described the governor after Gibbons’ recent remarks about a possible conspiracy linking Democratic payoffs to The Wall Street Journal.

After being pummeled in the media as something of a conspiracy theorist, he’s backed off his statement. But did you hear the governor is hiring a new press secretary?

It’s Oliver Stone.

GIBBONS’ FINANCES: In a recent interview, Gibbons bristled at allegations raised first in The Wall Street Journal that his ethics as a 10-year member of Congress might have been less than above board. In fact, Gibbons even invited me to check his refrigerator. Not for fish sticks and frozen peas, but for the kind of cold cash that Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson kept in his Frigidaire.

As for a consulting contract that his wife, Dawn, enjoyed from the Sierra Nevada Corp. at a time when the Sparks-based company was receiving help from the congressman in gaining a multimillion-dollar military contract, well, that’s nothing more than a coincidence, the governor assured a skeptic.

“I’ve gotten into greater debt for being in public service because I don’t do this kind of crap,” Gibbons said.

CF CENTER: University Medical Center’s financial woes are well known, but it’s good to know that county officials wisely have moved to ensure that Dr. Craig Nakamura’s association with the hospital continues through the hospital’s new cystic fibrosis center.

Families of children suffering from CF have been concerned that their needs might be forgotten amid the turmoil at UMC.

QUOTABLE: “Utah is being very disingenuous, and we’re calling them on it.” That’s Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy commenting in The New York Times on Utah’s proposal to create a 120-mile pipeline from Lake Powell to booming St. George while attempting to block a pipeline project from rural Nevada to Las Vegas.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Call it a farewell bouquet. After many years of providing scented arrangements for all occasions, Linda and Greg Anderson have closed Claire’s Flowers on West Charleston Boulevard. … While we’re glancing backward, friends and family of the late Ed Brown remind me that the independent publisher would have turned 90 this week. Some locals will remember Brown as the publisher of the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice. Brown, a retired Air Force colonel, spent decades providing a voice for the local black community.

• John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.